The story begins in the spring of 1775. Under much duress and turmoil, General George Washington is in danger of losing his grip on the war and the nation in the midst of the American Revolution. Then, there was the Battle of Trenton. Washington retook control of the war and soon changed the course of history. Soon after the war, Washington would become the nation's first president.
But the nation would remain in turmoil for years to come. The issue of race and class would loom like a haunting shadow for generations. Then came the Civil War, a war in which we thought the race debate would be over, but in many ways it had just begun. The union won, but the South would remain as racist as ever. In 1896, the case of Plessy versus Ferguson only added fuel to the fire of segregation. But the turn of the century is when the tide started to change.
Men like W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington would clash in their ideology. One believed in working with his hands and took an industrial approach to Reconstruction, while the other was a scholar eager to prove he belonged among the nation's brightest. The ideals of the later, that of W.E.B DuBois and the Niagara Movement, is what led to the formation of black fraternities and sororities in the early 1900s. The young, gifted, and black students entering higher education needed support to deal with the hostile environment. And so, they formed Black Greek letter organizations as a way to help mentor one another during these times.
Onward & Upward talks about the leadership of these organizations and the many great men and women who have come out of them. The film also highlights their ideals, and specific events of involvement throughout African-American history.